A surprising sound interrupted the Haida Gwaii school board meeting last week — woops, cheers, and a round of applause.
Not long before the meeting started, superintendent Dawna Johnson-Day got word that after years of work, the Grades 5 to 12 Haida language curriculum is fully accredited in B.C.
“I really want to congratulate everybody who played a part in this,” said Johnson-Day, adding that Joanne Yovanovich, principal of aboriginal education, and Haida language teacher Jaskwaan Bedard deserve special mention.
What accreditation means is that any students who take credit courses in Xaayda Kil/Xaad Kil will now have those credits recognized as requirements for graduating high school.
“It’s big,” she said. “It’s been a lot of ‘ach!’ and a lot of ‘yay!’ and this is the final ‘yay!’”
“That’s absolutely excellent — it’s been a long time coming,” said Trustee Kim Goetzinger, adding that the effort to write a Grades 5 to 12 language curriculum started over six years ago at the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP).
A preface to the resource package that makes up the language curriculum notes that Xaayda Kil/Xaad Kil is a language isolate, and listed as critically endangered under the UNESCO scale given that most of the 40 fluent speakers are now in their 80s and 90s.
It also notes that the language which children at local ‘Indian’ day schools or off-island residential schools were once forbidden to speak will now be integrated throughout elementary and high school, including non-language classes.
Besides the good news about credits, Johnson-Day also noted that Yovanovich recently had a co-authored paper about culturally responsive teaching included in a new collection called Learning, Knowing and Sharing: Celebrating Successes in Kindergarten-Grade 12 Aboriginal Education in British Columbia.
“It’s a phenomenal book,” she said.